The secret Mississippi concentration camp that killed 20,000 freed slaves.
You might not have ever heard about the Devil’s Punchbowl concentration camp in Mississippi, because it was so horrific that it has almost been erased from history.
The phrase concentration camp is normally synonymous with the Nazi programs in the second world war, but shortly after the Civil War there choice places in the U.S where similar camps appeared.
The Devil’s Punchbowl was so evil because it ensnared 20,000 freed slaves who nearly made it to the life of freedom they so deserved.
Slaves who were once trapped in the Southern plantations where they were lucky not to have worked to death were freed, and they should have had long happy lives in freedom to look forward to.
Instead they were captured once again, at the concentration camp in Natchez, Mississippi.
Paula Westbrook, a historian who has studied the Devil’s Punchbowl extensively describes the scenes.
“When the slaves were released from the plantations during the occupation they overran Natchez. And the population went from about 10,000 to 120,000 overnight.”
Unable to deal with the population swell, the authorities decided to take the matter into their own hands, in the worst way possible – the slave camp was built to confine the men once more.
Don Estes, former director of the Natchez City Cemetery said:
“So they decided to build an encampment for ’em at Devil’s Punchbowl which they walled off and wouldn’t let ’em out,”
For men who were so used to being entrapped for their whole lives, their new ‘home’ might not have even appeared that strange.
The punchbowl gets its name from the cavernous shaped area, a huge dint naturally formed in the ground, walled on all sides by high trees, even the nature of the terrain seemed to work in collusion with the evil doers.
Westbrook describes the awful conditions the men were forced to live in.
“The Union Army did not allow them to remove the bodies from the camp,”
“They just gave ’em shovels and said bury ’em where they drop.”
“Disease broke out among ’em, smallpox being the main one,”
“And thousands and thousands died. They were begging to get out.
‘Turn me loose and I’ll go home back to the plantation! Anywhere but there.’”
The area now is a lush green pasture, which secretly hides the atrocities that once occurred there, buried deep in the confines of history.